GRID – 10000 times faster than Internet

The Matrix may be the future of virtual reality, but researchers say the Grid is the future of collaborative problem-solving.

More than 400 scientists gathered at the Global Grid Forum this week to discuss what may be the Internet’s next evolutionary step.

Though distributed computing evokes associations with populist initiatives like SETI@home, where individuals donate their spare computing power to worthy projects, the Grid will link PCs to each other and the scientific community like never before.

IBM’s Brian Carpenter suggested “computing will become a utility just like any other utility.”

Carpenter said, “The Grid will open up … storage and transaction power in the same way that the Web opened up content.” And just as the Internet connects various public and private networks, Cisco Systems’ Bob Aiken said, “you’re going to have multiple grids, multiple sets of middleware that people are going to choose from to satisfy their applications.”

As conference moderator Walter Hoogland suggested, “The World Wide Web gave us a taste, but the Grid gives a vision of an ICT (Information and Communication Technology)-enabled world.”

Though the task of standardizing everything from system templates to the definitions of various resources is a mammoth one, the GGF can look to the early days of the Web for guidance. The Grid that organizers are building is a new kind of Internet, only this time with the creators having a better knowledge of where the bottlenecks and teething problems will be.

The general consensus at the event was that although technical issues abound, the thorniest issues will involve social and political dimensions, for example how to facilitate sharing between strangers where there is no history of trust.

Amsterdam seemed a logical choice for the first Global Grid Forum because not only is it the world’s most densely cabled city, it was also home to the Internet Engineering Task Force’s first international gathering in 1993. The IETF has served as a model for many of the GGF’s activities: protocols, policy issues, and exchanging experiences.

The Grid Forum, a U.S.-based organization combined with eGrid – the European Grid Forum, and Asian counterparts to create the Global Grid Forum (GGF) in November, 2000.

The Global Grid Forum organizers said grid communities in the United States and Europe will now run in synch.

The Grid evolved from the early desire to connect supercomputers into “metacomputers” that could be remotely controlled. The word “grid” was borrowed from the electricity grid, to imply that any compatible device could be plugged in anywhere on the Grid and be guaranteed a certain level of resources, regardless of where those resources might come from.

Scientific communities at the conference discussed what the compatibility standards should be, and how extensive the protocols need to be.

As the number of connected devices runs from the thousands into the millions, the policy issues become exponentially more complex. So far, only draft consensus has been reached on most topics, but participants say these are the early days.

As with the Web, the initial impetus for a grid came from the scientific community, specifically high-energy physics, which needed extra resources to manage and analyze the huge amounts of data being collected.

The most nettlesome issues for industry are security and accounting. But unlike the Web, which had security measures tacked on as an afterthought, the Grid is being designed from the ground up as a secure system.

Conference participants debated what types of services (known in distributed computing circles as resource units) provided through the Grid will be charged for. And how will the administrative authority be centralized?

Corporations have been slow to cotton to this new technology’s potential, but the suits are in evidence at this year’s Grid event. As GGF chairman Charlie Catlett noted, “This is the first time I’ve seen this many ties at a Grid forum.”

In addition to IBM, firms such as Boeing, Philips and Unilever are already taking baby steps toward the Grid.

Though commercial needs tend to be more transaction-focused than those of scientific pursuits, most of the technical requirements are common. Furthermore, both science and industry participants say they require a level of reliability that’s not offered by current peer-to-peer initiatives: Downloading from Napster, for example, can take seconds or minutes, or might not work at all.

Garnering commercial interest is critical to the Grid’s future. Cisco’s Aiken explained that “if grids are really going to take off and become the major impetus for the next level of evolution in the Internet, we have to have something that allows (them) to easily transfer to industry.”

Other potential Grid components include creating a virtual observatory, and doctors performing simulations of blood flows. While some of these applications have existed for years, the Grid will make them routine rather than exceptional.

The California Institute of Technology’s Paul Messina said that by sharing computing resources, “you get more science from the same investment.”

Ian Foster of the University of Chicago said that Web precursor Arpanet was initially intended to be a distributed computing network that would share CPU-intensive tasks but instead wound up giving birth to e-mail and FTP.

The Grid may give birth to a global file-swapping network or a members-only citadel for moneyed institutions. But just as no one ten years ago would have conceived of Napster — not to mention AmIHotOrNot.com — the future of the Grid is unknown.

An associated DataGrid conference continues until Friday, focusing on a project in which resources from Pan-European research institutions will analyze data generated by a new particle collider being built at Swiss particle-physics lab CERN.

Microsoft Surface Coming To AT&T Stores

Microsoft’s Surface computer will make its commercial debut April 17 in AT&T stores in New York City, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Francisco.

Microsoft first unveiled the Surface back in May 2007; the coffee-table like computer allows touch screen interaction with various surfaces, can recognize objects places on it and even interact with things like mobile phones.

AT&T said it planned to use the Surface to allow customers “to learn about the growing universe of mobile applications and devices.”

I had the opportunity to have a quick play with a Surface earlier this year and it’s one of the cooler things to come out of Redmond in the last 12 months, but I can’t help but wonder: isn’t putting a Surface in an AT&T store like driving an Aston Martin into a Ghetto? To be fair, interacting with a Surface at an AT&T store will be better than trying to interact with AT&T staff; not only will it be quicker (even if you queue for an hour to use it), it will actually be more polite and be able to explain the product its offering competently.

Amazon Launches SMS Buying Service

Amazon has launched Amazon TextBuyIt, a service that allows Amazon customers to purchase items via mobile phone text message.

To use the service, customers text the name of a product, its description, or its UPC or ISBN number to Amazon (262966). If Amazon stocks the item, the user will get the first two results sent to them. To purchase am item, users reply with 1 or 2 and are prompted for their email address and zip code. The service then calls the user and completes the checkout process using an automated voice system. Like regular Amazon orders, users can later track the item from Amazon.com.

The service is free to use, however items that are available as “Deal of the Day” or have a “Gold Box Discount” will not be discounted when purchased through Amazon TextBuyIt.

The obvious application for the service is price comparisons from within a physical store; customers in Borders for example could SMS a book title to see whether Amazon stocks it for less. Expect to see people texting Amazon from a store near you in the coming months.

FriendFeed or Socialthing! which is Easier to Use

There are a bazillion social network aggregators out there (Mike attempted to round up some of the most notable ones here). FriendFeed is the most visible of them all for two main reasons: it was founded a group of ex-Googlers and, as a consequence, benefits from a clean and easy-to-use design.

But FriendFeed’s going to have some serious competition from a TechStars startup called Socialthing!, which makes it even easier to get an overview of what your friends are doing on the web.

Socialthing! officially goes into private beta today and will let in the first 1,000 TechCrunch readers who use the invitation code “TechCrunch” to sign up (you’ll have to wait a few days to get your account, however). The service primarily differs from FriendFeed in the way it determines which of your friends to track. While FriendFeed actually requires users to create their own list of friends on FriendFeed, Socialthing! realizes you probably don’t want to create yet another list of your friends. So instead of asking you to do more work, it automatically detects who your friends are on the social services to which you belong.

The distinction may sound inconsequential but Socialthing!’s method actually makes things a lot easier, both for initial set up and for longer term maintenance. When you sign up for Socialthing!, you only have to provide it with your credentials to sites like Facebook and Pownce. And as time goes by, you don’t have to worry about setting up new friends on the service because it will automatically know that you’ve become friends with people elsewhere. In contrast, FriendFeed requires you to both explicitly designate friends during the initial configuration (either one-by-one or through Facebook/Gmail importing) and manually add new friends over time.

Another benefit Socialthing! has over FriendFeed is its focus on allowing users to send data back to social services (if you want to respond to someone’s tweet, for example, you can do so directly from Socialthing!). On the other hand, FriendFeed is all about reading data from services but not about writing it back.

While FriendFeed generally takes more effort, its approach does have unique advantages. You can follow friends of friends on FriendFeed and see updates from services that you don’t personally use, all because FriendFeed users have more independently-defined presences. FriendFeed also supports a wider range of services than Socialthing! (28 vs. 11, although Facebook updates are noticeably lacking from FriendFeed). Time, however, should narrow the gap.

In the end, whether FriendFeed succeeds more than Socialthing! will depend on whether people are looking for another community or just a way to easily track their existing ones. I suspect the latter will be the case.

Sneak Peek at Mozilla Prism – A Revolutionary Web Browser

Mozilla is on a spree to revolutionize the way we use web applications today, just like Mozilla WebRunner. Naming it as a killer app just wasn’t doing justice to it. So I felt an urge to bring to the notice that it isn’t just any other app.It will be, probably the next biggest thing that the web will be seeing after Ajax.

Ajax had redefined the web application just a couple of years ago. It definitely changed in the way web apps were being developed. This promoted rise of different interesting possibilities that more than widened the eyeball of a regular surfer. Web Operating Systems were at that time being touted as being able to replace the desktop operating system altogether in the future. But all these breath taking ideas have fallen flat to a place where the idea is still traditional. The usage of web browser.

Web applications have and still are web applications and I have not come upon any idea so simple yet so revolutionizing as the WebRunner. To update you upon the news surrounding WebRunner, Mozilla has converted the WebRunner project to a Mozilla Labs Project with a new fascinating name, Prism. When I saw Web Runner I was not amazed at this app itself. My mind was already seeing the future of web applications. It’s behavior was similar to the nature of a desktop application. Yet it ran on the web! It was the perfect example of how we can expect to put our web applications for our future projects.

Mozilla Prism

I think I may be a little too far a bit sooner, but I can see how Prism an impact our surfing lives. Imagine a day, you start your computer in just a moment, without any startup utilities coming in the picture. You have several Prism apps lying on your desktop. You double click an application and it is launched in another moment. This is something I am dreaming of, something which will definitely be backed by todays high speed connectivity and robust network infrastructure.

Well,a question in your mind would be how would Mozilla’s Prism contribute here. The direction I am seeing for Prism is not something out of context from my dream. A lite browser without the unnecessary facilities of the browser like the back button, the menu bar, the history, the bookmarks which only matter while surfing web sites. Prism is just enough to provide the basic foundation for connecting to the web, minus the normal browser behavior, yet retaining the background services like session management and security. Web applications don’t need them and all the more should not be taken care when they are being designed.

Web Apps with Mozilla Prism

Prism comes to mind when we require a web application to work in their own self with the support of the design which the web application has itself provided and not that of the browser. This is a thing of the past where web applications are designed with a thought process of developing a web site. Kind of traditional way which considered styling, the cross browser compatibility and many other aspects which form a part of the web site and not of the web application.

With Prism I am sure that one day the project would take us to a time where web applications would not require any HTML, CSS or JavaScript. It would be just like designing a desktop application just as we do it currently in .NET and Eclipse IDE’s. Drag and drop your required widget, give a theme for the app, and execute the app in Prism and later distribute it as a web application. The users of the Prism would just have the need to Prism app installed on their system. This is just like Java where only the JVM needs to be installed and the Java Programs come to life. Similarly install Prism and the required web application will come to its life.

Google announces Ad Manager

Just one day after the completion of the $3.1 billion DoubleClick Inc. acquisition, Google has announced a new, and free, ad serving platform. Called Ad Manager, Google’s newest offering is still in limited beta testing. Once officially launched it will aid small to medium sized businesses with the selling, scheduling, delivery and measurement of their entire directly-sold and network-based inventory.

The Ad Manager service will be offered free of charge, unlike many similar ad serving businesses including DoubleClick’s very own DART.

Ad Manager users won’t be limited to carrying ads from Google AdSense. Ads from other online ad networks can be used and can be in various formats including video, text and display.

Erin Teare Martin, Advertising Manager for Infoplease.com, has been involved in the limited beta. "Using Google Ad Manager, the delivery rate of our ads has improved by 10-15%. Before Google Ad Manager, we were maintaining two servers to keep ads running and they required ongoing maintenance. Since Google Ad Manager is a hosted solution, we have freed up those resources."

Google Ad Manager

Sprint Soft Lunches WiMAX Service, in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Demonstrating continuing progress with its next-generation wireless network initiative, Sprint (NYSE: S) today announced new Xohm(TM) mobile Internet business agreements involving web portal services and WiMAX network access devices. The company also named an advertising agency of record to help launch the Xohm brand in the United States.

A soft launch of Xohm mobile Internet service is underway with employees in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in preparation for commercial WiMAX service launch beginning later this year in select U.S. cities.

“Sprint is delivering on its Open Internet vision with exciting and differentiated WiMAX services,” explained Barry West, president of Sprint’s Xohm business unit. “The new service agreements and device commitments will help Xohm subscribers access, enjoy, store and secure personal digital and user-generated content while experiencing new device innovation.”

Sprint is exhibiting Xohm WiMAX applications, access devices and showing WiMAX broadband technical demonstrations during the 2008 International CES show in Las Vegas at booth # 31561, South Hall, in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The company plans to enhance and safeguard the Xohm personal broadband experience as it expands its WiMAX services ecosystem.